by Tom Eggebrecht
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
We were in the middle of eating dinner when my phone rang. Caller ID said the call was coming from West Palm Beach, Florida. Usually I let calls like that go to voicemail. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message, and I can call them back later.
For some reason, though, I picked up the phone.
A fellow pastor was on the other end of the line. He had just received a call from a pastor in northern Wisconsin, because a husband and wife from his parish in northern Wisconsin were at Disney on a mommy and daddy getaway.
The unimaginable had happened. The husband had passed away suddenly, and they needed a local pastor to go be with the wife at this most difficult of times. I told him that the hospital was about fifty minutes away from our house but that I’d get there as quickly as I could. I hopped in the car and headed out.
I got to the hospital and met the poor woman in the Emergency Room. All I could do at first was give her a hug. I told her how sorry I was. The nurse brought us to a room where we could have some privacy. She cried and told me what happened. She cried some more. They were supposed to go back to Wisconsin that evening. Now their pastor at home was telling their three young children that Daddy wouldn’t be coming back. To their credit, Disney gave the grieving woman a complimentary room to stay in until her parents and father-in-law could join her the next day.
I listened to her and let her cry. Then I shared with her the certain hope of faith that comes from the Word of God: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in my, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26). She paused and listened, tears still falling from her face. We turned next to Paul’s great resurrection chapter in 1 Corinthians: “’Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54–57). In that moment, I needed to hear the words as badly as she did.
Before I left for the hospital, my wife and I had decided to invite the woman to come back home with me so she wouldn’t have to be alone for the evening. She was appreciative of the offer but declined. I gave her my phone number and told her to call for anything at all. Pretty soon a taxi came to pick her up. Before she left the hospital, we prayed. We thanked the Lord for all those who had helped and cared throughout this ordeal. We prayed for the kids. Our prayer included petitions for peace, comfort, and help. In such an important moment it’s not easy to know how to pray. But pray we did.
Then she got into the taxi. And off she went.
You never know when an important moment will enter your day. Two people who had never met before were able to share faith in Christ — the very essence of life — at a time when it was desperately needed.
This poor woman has a long road ahead of her. I don’t know why this had to happen to her. And I don’t know why, in the grand scheme of things, I was the one called upon to minister to her. But I do know that these most important moments are the reason why faith in Jesus matters. It matters eternally.
Faith in Jesus is the only thing that will help us through any and every surprise life flings at us. Nurture it. You never know when it’s the only thing that will sustain you.
Tom Eggebrecht is senior pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Casselberry, Fla., where he marvels at the faith of the saints he serves. Follow his personal blog at www.tomeggebrecht.com.